In today’s “meet a speaker” corner we’re chatting with Steph Arrowsmith, ecosystem warrior and social entrepreneurship advocate – and one of the most inspiring people you’re likely to meet at 7in7!
Today we’re going to ask her why social entrepreneurship means so much to her and hear about the swoon-worthy spot she loves to work!
You’ve described your work as living at the heart of “people, planet and profit” and yourself as an “Ecosystem Warrior” – what does that mean to you?
People, planet, profit describes the triple bottom line that I believe all businesses and organisations should strive for. Business isn’t a zero sum game. Creating positive value for society, the environment and achieving financial sustainability is at the core of this philosophy – and I believe this creates greater economic value in the long run because consumer demands are changing.
A friend recently called me an ‘ecosystem warrior’ when introducing me to a group (thanks Nigel!), and I’ve since borrowed it to describe my often complicated, multi-layered work. Basically meaning that I work behind the scenes to create the systems that support and enable social entrepreneurship to flourish – a healthy ecosystem – everything from infrastructure, funding, advocacy, incubation, events and mentorship for example. It often involves connecting people, resources and capital across sectors and advocating for the needs of social entrepreneurs.
I love playing this supporter role to social entrepreneurs. Being the Robin to their Batman. I am continuously inspired by their sharp minds, generous hearts and relentless passion. There are so many of these individuals who just need that extra bit of support to make that breakthrough change in their communities. It’s about empowerment, not about charity.
You’re heavily involved in the SE Asian entrepreneurship community. What do you think makes SE Asia unique and exciting for new startups – especially socially conscious ones?
It’s a really exciting time to be a social startup in Asia. Coming from a public health/development background, I’ve seen that the social change movement in Southeast Asia was largely driven by NGO’s or government efforts, often marred with inefficiencies due to corruption, lack of accountability or incentive to succeed. They are also less resilient and risk adverse when it comes to innovations – dependent on grant donations and political interests that change year by year.
Social enterprises are playing an increasingly large role in the landscape of social development and are uniquely placed to implement new, innovative solutions, while ensuring financial sustainability and positive impacts that are driven by consumer demand. With the growing middle-class and buying power in Asia that I feel social entrepreneurship can be the huge vehicle for grassroots social change, particularly in places where government leadership has failed to provide adequate support through the public sector.
Right now, there are tons of resources out there to help social startups in Asia to succeed – incubation and accelerator programs specific to social enterprises, coworking spaces like Impact Hub, hackathons and ideation challenges, funding through impact investment, loans or crowdfunding and online platforms for communities to connect.
What part of the digital nomad lifestyle has been most valuable to you?
Ability to roam without restriction. Travel has been a huge part of my learning and growth as an individual, and I feel being in cubicles or restricted to 2 weeks of leave can inhibit us from the environments and experiences that push us to become global citizens and our full selves.
On the digital nomad journey I’ve met people who have challenged my world view, shaped my values and taught me more than I could learn within the confines of an office space. It’s definitely made me a more adaptable, resilient and empathetic person and I continue to grow the more that I travel as part of my work!
Bonus: Where’s your favorite place to work?
I really love working on trains! I like the idea of being in transition and the moving landscapes keeps you at a certain pace. I’m also a native in coworking spaces and I have some favourites around SE Asia, especially those close to nature (Hubud, KoHub). My all time favourite spot for deep masterminding and reflection is at Tiger Island in just off the coast of Jakarta – on a private driftwood deck overlooking the turquoise blue water and feeling the sea breeze. Be right back, just going to the pier now…
Um, can I teleport there with you? Sounds amazing!
You can follow Steph on Twitter to keep up with her many amazing projects, and join her and the rest of our amazing speakers at 7in7 2016 in Bangkok! Two days of epic talks, panels, Q&A’s, breakout sessions, meetups, parties and new best friends.
See you in October!